Confederate History and Heritage Month: Wellington Goddin begs President Andrew Johnson for a full pardon, but why?

Wellington Goddin. (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com)




An interesting bit of Confederate history and heritage here, to begin to close-out Confederate History and Heritage Month. On December 8, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued his "Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction"





Page 1 of President Lincoln's December 8, 1863 Proclamation.
(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress)




In part, President Lincoln's proclamation read:



"Whereas in and by the Constitution of the United States, it is provided that the President "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment, and
Whereas a rebellion now exists whereby the loyal State governments of several States have for a long time been subverted, and many persons have committed, and are now guilty of treason against the United States, and
Whereas, with reference to said rebellion and treason, laws have been enacted by Congress, declaring forfeitures, and confiscations of property, and liberation of slaves, all upon terms and conditions therein stated, and also declaring that the President was thereby authorized at any time thereafter, by proclamation, to extend to persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion, in any State or part thereof, pardon and amnesty, with such exceptions, and at such time, and on such conditions, as he may deem expedient for the public welfare, and
Whereas the Congressional declaration for limited and conditional pardon, accords with well established judicial exposition of the pardoning power, under the British, and American Constitutions, and
Whereas, with reference to said rebellion, the President of the United States has issued several proclamations, with provisions in regard to the liberation of slaves, and
Whereas it is now desired by some persons heretofore engaged in said rebellion, to resume their allegiance to the United States, and to re-inaugerate loyal State governments within and for their respective States, therefore
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except
that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath, and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate; and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation and shall be of the tenor and effect following, to wit:
"I ... do solemnly swear in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by, and faithfully support all Acts of Congress passed during the existing rebellion, with reference to slaves, so long, and so far, as not repealed, modified, or held void by Congress, or by decision of the Supreme Court; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support, all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion, having reference to slaves, so long, and so far as not modified, or declared void by decision of the Supreme Court, so help me God.""




Shortly after the end of the Civil War, and in light of Lincoln's Proclamation, many ex-Confederates found it suddenly, politically expedient to once again embrace the Constitution of the United States of America. Although during wartime they had taken up arms against the United States government and her citizens, now it was suddenly stylish to once again fall in love with everything American. Much like the pathetic Robert E. Lee, multitudes of ex-Confederates took to writing letters of plea, begging for forgiveness, and groveling for the chance to be granted civil rights, the same civil rights they had once sought to deny blacks. They longed for the opportunity to become, once again, a full citizen of the United States of America. How convenient. Amnesty was, all of a sudden, of the greatest importance with their "sovereign state" in shambles.





Remnants of Richmond, Virginia. April, 1865. (Image courtesy of the Library of Congress)








"Whereas, the President of the United States, on the 8th day of December, A.D. 1863, and on the 26th day of March, A.D. 1864, did, with the object to suppress the existing rebellion, to induce all persons to return to their loyalty, and to restore the authority of the United States, issue proclamations offering amnesty and pardon to certain persons who had, directly or by implication, participated in the said rebellion; and
Whereas, many persons who had so engaged in said rebellion have, since the issuance of said proclamations, failed or neglected to take the benefits offered thereby; and
Whereas, many persons who have been justly deprived of all claim to amnesty and pardon thereunder by reason of their participation, directly or by implication, in said rebellion and continued hostility to the government of the United States since the date of said proclamations, now desire to apply for and obtain amnesty and pardon.
To the end, therefore, that the authority of the government of the United States may be restored and that peace, order, and freedom may be established, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do proclaim and declare that I hereby grant to all persons who have, directly or indirectly, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, amnesty and pardon, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves and except in cases where legal proceedings under the laws of the United States providing for the confiscation of property of persons engaged in rebellion have been instituted; but upon the condition, nevertheless, that every such person shall take and subscribe the following oath (or affirmation) and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate, and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation and shall be of the tenor and effect following, to wit:
"I, ------ ------, do solemnly swear (or affirm), in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder, and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God."" 




Enter Wellington Goddin. Goddin was in his day, one of Richmond, Virginia's most successful real estate (and other "property") tycoons. Even though it goes against logic that any serious Confederate would beg for forgiveness, and bow at the altar of Americanism, many cowardly ex-Confederates did just that. Take for instance Wellington Goddin. Goddin made application to President Johnson for a full pardon on June 12, 1865.





(Image courtesy of Fold 3)




A transcription of Goddin's June 12, 1865 letter to President Andrew Johnson follows:




"Richmond, Va: 12th June, 1865
To His Excellency Andrew Johnson  
President of the United States
Sir:
Your recent Proclamation having been seen by me, I beg leave to make application for a general amnesty and full pardon, so that I may be fully restored to all my civil rights as an American Citizen. On the 28th April last I went forward voluntarily and took the oath of Allegiance under President Lincoln’s Proclamation, and claim that I am now a loyal citizen, and that I am restored to all my civil rights. If, however in this I am mistaken, I now beg leave to make the necessary application to you to be restored to those rights. I am nearly fifty years of age - have never been in the army and am no politician, but simply a business man and private citizen. Now that the war is over, I feel that I can and will support the Constitution of the United States as faithfully as any other loyal citizen; and that is my fixed purpose to do all in my power to promote the objects of peace, and the restoration of the civil laws throughout the whole United States. In view of the recent heavy loss which I have sustained, not only by the fall of Richmond, but by the destruction of a large amount of real estate and other property in said city, I am not certain that I am worth “twenty thousand dollars of taxable property”, still, should such prove to be the fact, I rely on the right which I have already acquired by taking the oath of Allegiance, of being restored to all my civil rights, and to the possession of such property as I may now own. The Rev. Dr. George W. Samson of Columbian College is acquainted with me, and I beg to leave to refer you to him. In addition, I am well acquaintance with the Hon. W.W. Boyer of South Carolina now on a visit to you, and to William Selden Esq. of Washington. Besides, I can refer you to the Hon. Jno. M. Botts, and to any citizen of Richmond, and especially to my friends Mssrs. Charles Palmer, Franklin Stearns and Horace L. Kent. Hoping that you will consider that by granting my application, and others of similar kind, you will aid in cementing the people of the South in one united determination to support the laws and Constitution of the United States.
I subscribe myself, very respectfully,
Your Obt. Servt. W. Goddin."




For good measure, Goddin followed-up his first plea for forgiveness with another on June 29, 1865, this time enlisting the help of his good friend Charles Palmer.





(Image courtesy of Fold 3)




Interestingly enough, Goddin professes in his plea to President Johnson, to have never been in the army, that he is not a politician, and is but just a simple businessman. So what on earth was the reason for Goddin to beg President Johnson for a full pardon? Stay tuned. 





Restoring the honor!






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